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Dee Burris Blakley ([personal profile] dee_burris) wrote2012-01-21 11:34 am

From the pages of Good Housekeeping, September 1906

I was quite intrigued and amused when I ran across this article, entitled, Single Blessedness Supported by an Apartment. It was written by Elizabeth Knight Tompkins, born 17 Oct 1865, in Oakland, CA.

She wrote the article to advocate for single women building their own homes, and arranging for live-in help to boot.

I alternately grinned and grimaced as I read it.




Some excerpts from the first four pages...

We may take it for granted that no woman beyond thirty, of larger interests than the small personal concerns of every day can find living in a boarding house or hotel any better than a concession to expeidiency and convenience. The problem of a home of her own for a single woman of moderate means is of difficult solution...There is all the difference between a rented house and your own house that there is between another person's children and your own...We will leave out of the question the possibility of buying a ready-made home, an expedient to be adopted only by women of small imagination and insignificant personality.

The problems of building a house for one are perlexing. I have known women who have solved them by one big room with small dependencies of bath and kitchen. This solution is unsatisfactory. In the first place, it means doing all one's own work, a high price to pay for independence and quarters to one's own taste...

...The problem, both constructive and economical is complicated all out of proportion by the introduction of a servant. Her advent involves a dining room, bedrooms, pantries, wash tubs, larger and more elaborate kitchen arrangements, and, if you have a conscience, another bathroom...

Tompkins takes the position throughout the article that a satisfying life for a woman consists of more than housework.

The part that makes me cringe is that for her, it seems *some* women should have a satisfying life, and there are others who should clean up the mess they make.

So how would a gentlewoman of moderate means get the household help she needed?

...The first floor represents an apartment to be let to tenants, who, for part of their rent, will agree to cook, clean and answer the doorbell for the inhabitant of the floor above. It was the success of a similar plan in a house in Boston that made the idea seem feasible...
As you can see in the pages above, she even gives her readers the floor plan she feels will get the job done.

And I have to wonder if she ever got her own house...Some day I mean to build just such a house as the one illustrated, but, in the meanwhile, other single women of home-loving instincts are welcome to the idea...

(Anonymous) 2012-01-22 05:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh my. A great read, but some of it is almost as bad as fingernails on a chalkboard...

This reminds me of more than a few of our nearest and dearest - women who took pride in barely being able to boil water and in living by "standards" (a word I came to hate).

However, given the date this written, it's also rather refreshing to read of a woman who is single and seeking greater autonomy.

-- Susan/Nolichucky Roots

(Anonymous) 2012-01-23 05:09 am (UTC)(link)
A study in contrasts, don't you think? She was 41 so she'd had a few years to think about the kind of house she wanted to build! I think it's interesting that the name she gave the house was Single Blessedness. It looks very large - large enough for a family of 6! I love the old-fashioned fonts used in the layout.

(Anonymous) 2012-01-23 05:10 am (UTC)(link)
That last Anonymous was from me, Nancy, of My Ancestors and Me. I keep forgetting to add my name.